Welcome to the 12th edition of Full Stack Creator! If you are new, welcome. Grab a coffee/tea and let's chat about hustle culture.
So you work a 9-5 job, but you have aspirations to either move up in that role or maybe pivot to something entirely new. Maybe you are trying to go freelance, so you are free to work for yourself and have a more nomadic lifestyle. With the amount we are required to work, generally 40++ hours a week, how are you supposed to accomplish those goals? The one obvious answer, especially lately, is to work nights and weekends.
This culture, the go go go mentality, has a few names – hustle culture and hustle porn are the most common though. Hustling is both loved and hated, but mainly shown as this sexy, cool thing to do. If you check any form of social media, especially in the tech space, you will see hundreds, maybe thousands of accounts working at all hours, photographing and filming themselves hustling. This term was originally only used for people that work/fight their way out of a bad spot, be that poverty, debt, etc. It was also used with the connotation that people are doing shady things to make money. Now it is used by people making hundreds of thousands a year, which is kind of the intersection of both of those images.
This idea that one should always be excelling, growing, doing – and that it is ok to do it in the little extra time we have left in the day – is only recently a norm. Previously, in the baby boomer era, people went one of two routes. They found a vocation and stuck with it, maybe opening their own business, but rarely varied. This vocation was generally very specified, maybe manufacturing, the building of things, a shop/store owner, etc. The other route was getting a degree, getting a fancy job, and moving up the career ladder. People rarely shifted careers. Hell, the idea of a career was the ultimate goal. Find something, get good at it, keep moving up, and make more money. This was all built around the American dream that their ancestors fought for. I get this culture, it made sense, it was very tunnel focused and small sighted, but it was safe.
Now, 30-ish years later, people – including myself – do not value those things. They don’t thrive for stability, they thrive for interest and fulfillment. Staying in one job, one career path is the opposite of that. Generally speaking, the idea of staying in one career, gradually moving up is counter-intuitive to the human condition. We are always evolving, changing into something new. You are not the same person you were 10 years ago and you will not be the same in 10-20 from now.
The hustle culture was born from this need, the compulsion to change. But this culture is only a bandaid for a system that is 30+ years old and broken. Careers, jobs, goals, like people, are not linear. The people that have the self-awareness to know what they want and need, know this. They built this culture so we can pivot with less risk, less worry of poverty and having to move back home to mommy and daddy – though this has also grown out of this. I can go more into that in another installment.
Where this all goes wrong is when it is turned into a sexy, drug-like culture. People hustling 24/7, selling it on social like their next product idea. The problem here is not the idea of working for that next something, that next goal. It is making everyone feel like they need to. Everyone has different circumstances. Time, energy, and mental stability all play huge roles in the ability to hustle on the side. People have families depending on them. Some don’t have the energy to bounce back and forth and do either well enough for it to matter. Others get so wrapped up in it that they second guess themselves, making it feel pointless and that they are failures. I know because I have felt all these things. I have known and seen people also go through this. I have seen these super successful people crush the hustle life, excelling in it and reveling in the spoils. While I made marginal steps to a goal, then 15+ backward, due to exhausting myself or ignoring other things.
We only have 24 hours in a day. The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep. The traditional worker works 8 hours a day. This only leaves 8-ish hours for other things. These things are generally consumed with day-to-day tasks like eating, showering, cleaning, and exercising if you are lucky. Never mind that oh so needed escape time. For most that is TV, for others books, the outdoors or making things. With the little time left, do you want/need to use that for achieving your next career goal?
I do not have a fully thought out solution here, more just food for thought. Is this all due to a system that asks us to work too much and live too little? Is the system right and the human compulsion wrong? Did we build more complexity to life than we can handle?
Personally, I think the system is a bit broken. I know we should not be expected to work 40+ hours of our week. I also know that we did not only build too much complexity, but we have too many expectations – not only of ourselves but of others. What you see and hear on the internet is not always true. That post of your idol burning the midnight oil could be entirely false. They could have shot that photo weeks ago. They might not even have that fancy job you think they do.
The advice that I can offer, be it from my experience only, is focus on you. Focus on your goals, your circumstances. Assess how much you can do, how much you need, how much your friends and family are impacted by it. Decide if you want to hustle at all. But above all, do it on your terms.
Podcasts, videos, and articles around hustle culture:
Matt D’Avella talks with Garyee about Hustle
New York Times - Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?